In 2009, a young black bear with the identification tag M34 traveled 500 miles over eight weeks in pursuit of a mate, unknowingly providing a key proof point for protection of a statewide wildlife corridor.

The bear’s trek also highlighted the precarious nature of the connections between the land parcels that make up this corridor.

While this work started long before M34, his journey was an important part of decades of work from conservationists, scientists, politicians and many others to pass the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act a year ago.

On the first anniversary of this landmark legislation, we celebrate the progress made since, while continuing our work to ensure that all at-risk areas in the corridor are protected. To date, the act has resulted in the protection of at least 36,445 acres of land with an investment of $32 million in public funds for conservation across the state.

The Florida Wildlife Corridor is nearly 18 million acres of contiguous wilderness and working lands crucial to the survival of many of Florida’s 131 imperiled animals, including the Florida panther, gopher tortoise, manatee, burrowing owl, red-cockaded woodpecker, swallow-tailed kite and black bear.

In addition to protecting wildlife, conserving wild spaces is crucial to mitigating climate change, as studies show natural spaces play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gases and guarding against the impacts of increased temperatures and natural disasters.

The Florida Wildlife Corridor also protects ranching and fishing, supporting large sectors of Florida’s economy.

Today, 10 million acres of the corridor are already protected, including 75 state parks and 32 state forests, while the remaining 8 million acres are opportunity areas that are not yet conserved.

The Everglades headwaters and other crucial areas that feed springs and reservoirs can be found in the corridor, which is responsible for protecting much of Florida’s drinking water.

Florida is one of nine states that have passed wildlife corridor-related legislation. Of those nine, it is the fastest-growing and second-most populous. With roughly 1,000 people moving to Florida every day, preserving these unprotected areas is even more urgent.

This anniversary provides an opportunity to reflect on the progress to date and envision how best to continue protecting the corridor and the wildlife that inhabit it.

Florida depends on healthy and sustainable green infrastructure, and we need to continue taking thoughtful steps to ensure the corridor’s protection.

To date, 14 land parcels have been conserved, either through acquisition or conservation easement, each made possible through the crucial work of our partner organizations.

From preserving biodiversity and endangered species in the Red Hills Conservation Area, to protecting conduits that feed one of the largest and deepest artesian springs in the world in the Wakulla Springs Protection Zone, these land parcels represent key linkages that are crucial to the animals that make it their home.

The framework of the Florida Wildlife Corridor has successfully re-energized land conservation in the Sunshine State. Conserving land and water is a win for Floridians, as well as the plants, animals, and economies that rely on a healthy environment.

— Dimmitt is the CEO of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation.


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